Bears

Bears' Ka’Deem Carey survives roster bubble and then some

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Bears' Ka’Deem Carey survives roster bubble and then some

When Ka’Deem Carey went to training camp this year, he was fourth or fifth on the unofficial depth chart, and he wasn’t completely sure he’d leave it as a member of the Chicago Bears.

The young running back, picked by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, played sparingly for the first 14 weeks of last season, then dressed but never saw the field the last two weeks. He carried just 35 times and played a total of just 100 snaps all season, and was a general non-factor for a 5-11 team ranked near the bottom in rushing.

Then the Bears, with their new coaching and personnel staffs, invested their fourth-round pick this year on another running back, Jeremy Langford. That “lit a fire under my butt,” Carey told CSNChicago.com. “It motivated me even more.”

The real motivation, though, had started before that. He’d been back to Arizona during the offseason and his coaches echoed a voice within the Bears organization – Carey wouldn’t say who – that screamed a harsh message to him.

“Looking back, I realize that I didn’t know the playbook as much as I needed to,” Carey recalled. “So that prevented me from playing fast and really showing my talents.”

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It wasn’t a case of work ethic. “I knew the plays but I didn’t really know the defenses,” Carey said. “The 3-4 defense, for instance, ‘what do you do if this happens?’ Not just knowing your offense, but knowing the defense and what they’re in and what they’re going to try to do.

“I wasn’t looking that far. I just thought, know your plays and go out and play. In college you just played. But as a pro, you have to know everything on that field. That’s a ‘pro.’

“It took this offseason for me to realize that.”

The light had indeed come on. More important, it stayed on. Carey already has 35 carries, one fewer than his 2014 total, and he’s scored a touchdown against San Francisco.

But a backup running back is at extreme roster risk if he cannot be an effective contributor on special teams. Carey was not as a rookie, and he knew it.

“Now I’m in the special-teams playbook,” he said.

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The new coaching staff had no investment in Carey, who competed for the No. 2 spot behind Matt Forte, but ultimately settled in below Langford at No. 3. It fell to Carey to impress his new bosses.

“Ka’Deem was a little bit of a mystery to us because he hadn’t done a whole lot of special teams,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers conceded. “Ka’Deem’s made a lot of strides. [Special teams are] foreign to him. The things that aren’t foreign to him are contact and want-to and desire to be really good at stuff.

“It works against him sometimes. He’s such an over-aggressive player and he plays with such an aggressive temperament sometimes he’s got to kind of rein himself back in.”

Carey has earned a spot on kickoff return and has brought two kicks back an average of 19 yards.

“I want to get on the field,” Carey said. “I want to hit somebody. I want to get the ball. I want to score. Do something. Dang, I want to play some football!”

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday. 

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

The Bears began their slew of offseason moves by releasing inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bears in 2016.

In his first year in Chicago he amassed 110 tackles in 12 games but was suspended four games for PED use. He played in just one game lsat season before suffering a pectoral injury that placed him on IR. He then tested positive again for a performance-enhancing drug, resulting in a 10-game suspension that bleeds over into 2018 for two more games, wherever he winds up.